Category Archives: Dick Irvin

Lots In The Lineups

You can look at the Nov. 25, 1950 program lineups for the Habs and Leafs and see a few cool things.

This was Montreal’s 20th game of the season, and they would lose 4-1 to the Leafs in Toronto on this night. (Okay, that wasn’t so cool).

Gerry McNeil is in goal for Montreal in his rookie year after Bill Durnan retired after the previous season.

Number 5 for Toronto is Bill Barilko, who would score the legendary Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal for the Leafs in game 5, against these same Habs, to cap off the season. Barilko would be killed that summer when his plane crashed in Northern Ontario.

Hal Laycoe, number 12 for the Habs, would be traded to Boston later this season and was a major player in the 1955 Richard Riot.

Rocket Richard has ten goals at this point, more than anybody else on the team.

Habs #14 Billy Reay would eventually coach for 16 NHL seasons, two with Toronto and 14 in Chicago. I have a game-used stick of his from two years prior to this, signed by the entire Habs team.

Elmer Lach, number 16, is still playing and would play three more years after this.

Golly gee willikers, that’s Howie Meeker, number 11 for the Torontonians.

And Turk Broda, who was at the opening ceremonies for the brand new Orillia Arena that year, has one more shutout than McNeil at this point.

 

 

 

Roger Leger Was All Choked Up

Another little ditty from my Bee Hive collection as we wait for the Habs to destroy Chicago on Tuesday.

Roger Leger was not only in the running to replace Dick Irvin as coach of the Canadiens, a job Toe Blake was eventually given, but also managed to get his bridgework stuck in his throat one night against Detroit in 1948 which caused the team to lose the game.

The Canadiens were winning by one goal late in the game and as the puck came back to Leger on the blueline from a faceoff, Ted Lindsay rammed his elbow into Leger’s mouth, forcing the guy’s bridgework down his throat. Leger left the puck sitting there as he choked and panicked and skated for the bench and a Detroit player grabbed the puck and tied the score. Soon after, the Wings popped the winner.

However, in Leger’s defence, I would’ve done the same thing. The hell with the puck.

Who’s The Best Coach Ever?

From Scott Morrison’s book “Hockey Night In Canada’s Best of the Best”, these are the choices for all-time best coach. I just go directly to Toe Blake, but who is your pick? And what the heck is Don Cherry doing on this list? And Pat Quinn?

  1. Roger Neilson – If there’s a word to describe Neilson, it has to be innovator. Every step of the way he did things differently, whether it was using video, headset communication with coaches, or finding loopholes in the rules. He changed the face of coaching.
  2. Billy Reay – He played in the NHL for 10 seasons and then took his spot behind the bench with the Leafs. He was better known for his 14 years with the Chicago Blackhawks where he took the team to the Cup finals three times
  3. Jack Adams – He’s the only person to have his name on the Stanley Cup as a player, coach and general manager.  His career as a coach began with back-to-back Cup wins in 1936 and ’37.
  4. Pat Quinn – His last year with the Oilers was unlike the rest of his career.  He’s always been a winner. His teams made it to the playoffs 15 times and twice he was in the Cup finals.
  5. Fred Shero – Was hired by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1971. In five of the seven seasons he was with the Flyers, the team finished with more that 100 points and in four of those seasons had a win percentage over .700.
  6. Pat Burns – Won the Jack Adams award three times. He got the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup final, Toronto twice to the conference championship and he won the big prize with the New Jersey Devils in 2003.
  7. Dick Irvin – Started as a coach with the Blackhawks in 1928, but in the following season was with the Maple Leafs and led them to a Stanley Cup win. He took them to the final six more times and then moved on to Montreal where he led the Canadiens to three Stanley Cup victories.
  8. Al Arbour – Went directly from player to coach. He started with the St. Louis Blues and then went to the New York Islanders where he won four consecutive Stanley Cups. He finished with 781 career wins in 1,606 games.
  9. Scotty Bowman – The winningest coach in NHL history – most games won, most Stanley Cups won. Over his 30 years of coaching, Bowman never had a losing record when he coached a full season. He finished with 1,244 regular-season wins and 223 more in the playoffs.
  10. Mike Babcock – This career is still in progress. It started in 2002 with the Anaheim Ducks where he took the team to the finals in 2003. He then jumped to the Red Wings where he has never missed the playoffs. He’s won one Stanley Cup and a gold medal with Team Canada at the Vancouver Olympics.
  11. Hector “Toe” Blake – Was a good hockey player as well as a great coach. He played on the legendary Punch Line with Rocket Richard and Elmer Lach. Then as a coach he won the Stanley Cup eight times in 13 seasons, including five in a row.
  12. Glen Sather – A journeyman hockey player who made his mark as a coach and general manager. He was behind the bench when the Edmonton powerhouse was at its best, winning five Stanley Cup championships. 
  13. George “Punch” Imlach – He joined the Leafs as an assistant general manager. One month into his job Billy Reay was fired as coach and Imlach took over. In 1962, the Leafs won the first of three consecutive Cups and was behind the bench in 1967, the last title in franchise history.
  14. Tommy Ivan – While with the Detroit Red Wings from 1947 to 1954, he won three Stanley Cups and earned the reputation for taking talent and making it better. While in Detroit he led his Wings to first place seven years in a row.
  15. Don Cherry – Best known as a commentator on Hockey Night in Canada.  He was also a colourful coach for the Boston Bruins who made it to the Stanley Cup finals twice, both times against the Montreal Canadiens. He won the Jack Adams Award in 1976.   

Me And Methuselah

I became 60 years old today. I know, it’s ridiculous. It’s way too old.

If this keeps up, I’ll catch Methuselah, who apparently lived until he was 969.

When I was born, on Oct. 4th, 1950, the Rocket had only played eight seasons with the Canadiens. He’d go on for another ten years after that. Dick Irvin was coaching the Habs when my mom gave birth to me, Gerry McNeil was the goaltender having replaced Bill Durnan, and it was three long years before Jean Beliveau put the sweater on.

I was born five years before the Richard Riot and nine years before Jacques Plante decided to wear a mask for the first time. I’ve been alive for 18 of the 24 Stanley Cups Montreal has won.

I’m really freaking old. But I’ve been told a few times that I have the passion of someone half my age.

World War ll had ended only five years before my birth. Hockey telecasts wouldn’t start until I was a two-year old, in 1952. I’m the same age as Tom Petty and Jay Leno, a year older than Guy Lafleur, and three years older than Bob Gainey.

But I want to confess something. I’m glad I’m this age and wouldn’t trade it for anything younger. I mean this. I grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s, in great and exciting times, and among other things, watching the Original Six teams get it on. The first expansion didn’t happen until I was 17, and so my youth was seeing what many of you only read about. 

I ate dinner with the Leafs (I know, the Leafs) at their training camp in Peterborough when I was 13. I saw the Rocket play live, as well as Jacques Plante and Doug Harvey and the rest. At one game in Toronto, my dad corralled Toe Blake and had him go into the dressing and get Doug Harvey’s autograph for me.

I saw Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Bobby Orr, Tim Horton, Stan Mikita, Bernie Geoffrion, Phil Esposito, Terry Sawchuk, Dickie Moore and all those old greats play, either live or on TV, and I was a 21 year bartender working in Sudbury when the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series was held.  And while in my 30’s I spent an evening drinking beer with an old man named Aurele Joliat.

When I was 13, the Beatles came to America for the first time and played the Ed Sullivan Show. And in the summer of 1966 when I was 15, I saw the Beatles live in Toronto.

I was a teenager when all that classic rock you know the words to was fresh and new. I went to the Atlantic City Pop Festival held two weeks before Woodstock and saw a very similiar lineup as in Woodstock, and I was a 22 year old in the crowd at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum in 1973 enjoying Led Zeppelin.

You’re doing your own thing now, seeing your own players you’ll tell your grandkids about, and singing along to your own music. I say savour everything, because believe me, from the bottom of my heart, you’ll be 60 before you know it.

But don’t despair. Getting older isn’t a bad thing at all. You’ll just have to trust me on this.

I Was Cold (And Mildly-Warm Other Things)

Yes, I know there are wars and strife and you have your own many problems, but I just want to say that I dealt with really uncomfortable air-conditioning today and you just might start thinking that your own lives aren’t so bad after all.

The ferry was freezing, the doctor’s office was freezing, the Telus office was freezing, the restaurant was freezing, and the ride back on the ferry was freezing.

You tell me. Are your problems so bad now?

But this is a Habs blog, at least until the NHL shuts down for a year, so here’s the important Habs stuff for today:

I’m reading Net Worth which I think every hockey fan should read if you haven’t already as it deals with the corruption and greed of owners and others over the years, with Alan Eagleson getting his share of ink of course, and in a memo from Frank Selke to his Montreal owners, he described Jacques Plante as “almost a mental case in his exalted ego and we must give serious thought to a replacement as he is not very amenable to discipline.” Another star’s “I.Q” is so low that we must not let ourselves count too highly on him.” Bernie Geoffrion “can’t even check his suitcase.” Dickie Moore was a “disappointing worker at training camp and as you know I had quite a session with him at contract-signing time.”

What a nasty memo. The book also details the viciousness of Detroit GM Jack Adams and naturally, good old Conn Smythe in Toronto. These people, and others, acted like children, were ruthless, cheap bastards who manipulated every person who came into their lives. They stole, lied, cheated, and connived, all for the almighty buck. 

I don’t know whether Gary Bettman looks good or bad compared to them.  

James Norris Sr, a man who virtually controlled hockey at one time, although he’s barely remembered, had a great-grandfather who injured his leg in a logging accident and amputated it himself.

I got this picture to go with my Billy Reay stick. This is the 1948-49 Montreal Canadiens – Butch Bouchard is the captain on the left just beside Bill Durnan, and that’s coach Dick Irvin over on the other side. (Give it a click, it’ll get bigger). My stick is signed by pretty well everybody in the picture. Billy Reay is three over from Irvin. I wonder if that’s my stick.

I think there should be this kind of team picture nowadays. Even if just from time to time. Players standing like that. Something different.

This Is A Stick-Up

Yes indeed, this is the stick. The one I just bought at auction and which I’ve mentioned before. But here it is in one of my rooms which makes the story new, sort of.

Classic Auctions describes as having “great Hall of Fame pedigree” and that in itself makes me all teary-eyed and goofy. The stick alone is a fine specimen, but what really puts it over the top are the names on it. It’s been signed by 17 members of the 1948-49 team and they are, if you don’t mind and not bored already – Elmer Lach, Ed Dorohoy, Billy Reay, Joe Carveth, Rip Riopelle, Ken Mosdell, Bob Fillion, Doug Harvey, Jacques Locas, Bill Durnan, George Robertson, Dick Irvin, Hal Laycoe, Ken Reardon, Maurice Richard, Emile Bouchard, and Murph Chamberlain.

Lach’s signature is the only one really faded and hard to see. Doug Harvey signed with a fine-point pen but is there in all its glory but you have to look for it.

Some folks get excited when they buy a new lawn mower or a nice pair of cowboy boots. Habs ‘Hall of Fame pedigree’ things like my new old stick, yellowed and well-used, is what I prefer.

Fuzzy-Faced Bobby Hull Helped Dick Irvin In Practice

Rocket, Frank Selke, and Dick Irvin in deep discussion just before Richard was suspended which led to the infamous 1955 St. Patrick's Day Richard Riot in Montreal

After Dick Irvin’s coaching career ended in Montreal, he joined the Chicago Black Hawks for the 1955-56 season, but his health was in such bad shape during the Hawks’ training camp that year, that, as son Dick Irvin. Jr. told Frank Selke, he had to sit on the sidelines and let 16 year old Bobby Hull, who was still a junior but at the Hawks camp, do the on-ice work for him.

Mr. Irvin died in May of 1957 of bone cancer.